I have been using the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ for nearly a month for review purposes. With the recent announcement of Apple iPhone 11 series, it further reinforced the value of Galaxy Note10 series in the premium flagship segment. The S$1598 price tag seemed reasonable compared to the $1799 for iPhone 11 Pro Max considering the Note10+ has far more technical advantages, putting aside all the software and the OS familiarity debate.
But let me focus on comparing the Note10+ with other Android competitors. As a discerning smartphone user, I rarely buy a phone due to emotional attachment reasons unless justified by strong features. This was why after so many years of leaving Samsung (from Galaxy S3), I have returned to Samsung with the Galaxy S10, due to several reasons as described in my blog.
For the Galaxy Note10+, the justification to own one would be a tough one for me, but ignoring the price, I am enjoying using the phone better than the predecessors, as well as many other brands in recent memory. Let’s break it down.
The first thing that hit me is the sheer size of the Note10+. It is huge, but for someone who handles the phone using the left hand, the Note10+ has all the side buttons located on the left side, making them easier to access. I got used to the power button so much so that when I switched back to Galaxy S10, I kept pressing the left-side Bixby button for power (and how I wish I could re-assign that button).
And while Samsung has maxed out the 6.8-inch Super AMOLED display to the edges, the phone feels somewhat less chunky, thanks to making the device even slimmer than the Note9. The phone feels more comfortable on the hand than previous models, because of all the finer details to contour the glass around the edges and keeping the metal on the left and right sides as thin as possible.
I am still not a fan of the curved edges, as the content at the sides get distorted. When taking photos or videos, the extreme borders get framed in unknowingly. For consumers with meaty hands, occasional contact at the edges will result in some unwanted screen responses. In many cases, I find myself unable to trigger the shutter, only realising that it was due to the phone detecting my finger holding at the edge. In any case (pun unintended), fitting a protective case resolves this as the case thickness keeps the fingers away from the edges, and protects the fragile phone from heartbroken damages.
The front camera module is positioned dead centre at the top of the display. From a design viewpoint, the placement is more pleasing than at the sides. It is inconspicuous enough to be ignored, compared to the teardrop design. Additionally, the edges are less rounded, which delivers more pixels at the extreme edges, allowing status icons to be placed more at the corners.
Playing videos and games feel immersive, and the powerful stereo speaker setup delivers the powerful sound that makes it more enjoyable.
The rear camera combination is a familiar setup: an ultra wide-angle, a standard wide-angle, a 2x telephoto, and a 3D camera. Image quality offers no surprises from the Galaxy S10 series.
The additional features on the Galaxy Note10 series is the software. With the added DepthVision camera, there are more real-time AR capabilities that the phone can process. The AR Doodle demonstrates that you can draw on a person’s face and the doodles can track and move in tandem to the faces. The Live Focus Video supports background effects like bokeh, glitches, but only works when faces are detected. The 3D scanner lets you scan an object in 360-degrees, after which you can animate it by tracing a real person’s movement.
One general limitation on the Live Focus is that the camera must detect faces in order to process. Unlike Huawei Aperture mode, the Samsung camera cannot create artificial depth of field when shooting non-facial objects.
The prima donna of a Galaxy Note series is of course the S Pen, now with more tricks up its sleeve. In addition to the remote presentation trigger and camera shutter, the S Pen on the Galaxy Note10+ can navigate the camera app and the music player by making gestures. It may be useful if you need to operate the device from a distance away, for instance, when it is mounted on a tripod at a distance.
Other than the new features, the S Pen remains a formidable companion to the stylus lovers who can create amazing digital art and calligraphy, and in many occasions, a more precise selection tool compared to the stubby fingers. There are situations where the finger is simply no match to achieve accurate on-screen positioning, for instance, when trying to drag a clip to start at the precise millisecond position. Or, when you need to insert handwritten notes on Instagram Stories. If you are a content creator, it is very hard to challenge the benefits of a stylus.
The Weaker Sibling – Galaxy Note10
Samsung is very crafty when it comes to sizing up the lower-end model. The Galaxy Note10 has a 6.3-inch screen and a size identical to Galaxy S10. That would appeal strongly to crossover consumers – like myself – who appreciate the S Pen. But it has several crippling features that would discourage the enthusiasts – like myself – from “downgrading”.
- No DepthVision (3D) camera. That means 3D Scanner is not supported, while AR-based camera features would be software driven.
- No microSD card slot. You are limited to the built-in storage.
- Small battery size. It might not last you the whole day.
- 8GB RAM compared to 12GB RAM. It might have performance impact if you are heavy in processing videos.
It so happens that during the review period, I was creating dozens of video content for products I was engaged to, and I come to appreciate the advantages of the Galaxy Note10+. First, the large screen makes editing a lot pleasing. Second, the S Pen makes video editing and layering more precise. Third, the powerful processor and generous 12GB RAM makes video rendering fast. Finally, the large battery allowed me to use the phone intensively for the entire day without recharging.
If you are focused on mobile photography, the Huawei P30 Pro remains unbeatable, where the camera is more versatile and higher quality. If you create all sorts of contents from videos, drawings, writings, and watches streaming videos, then the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ would be a better smartphone.
The Galaxy Note10+ is a beautifully crafted smartphone with more glass and bling, beefing up the specs and adding feature improvements to justify the premium price tag. This is one of the most technologically comprehensive Android smartphones to own, if you can afford it.